Due to their tremendous size, commercial trucks are inherently dangerous. When a collision occurs between a semi-truck and a standard-sized automobile, the results can be truly devastating. While large trucks are involved in about three percent of all highway accidents in California, they are involved in nearly twelve percent of all deadly crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that nearly 300 people were killed in tractor trailer accidents in California in 2014 alone, with thousands more sustaining very serious injuries.
As trucks are so dangerous, the big trucking companies have a legal duty to ensure that they are always operating with the highest level of safety in mind. Unfortunately, in far too many cases, these companies put profits before people, breaking laws and putting unsafe trucks on the road. Many different state and federal laws have been adopted in an effort to try to improve truck safety. Here, our experienced Los Angeles truck accidents lawyers explain the commercial truck safety regulations that have been adopted by the state of California.
Five Important Commercial Truck Safety Regulations
- Trailer Length and Trailer Load Restrictions
Many tractor trailer accidents occur because of an improperly loaded trailer. Trucking companies have a legal obligation to ensure that they are always complying with state and federal trailer length and load size regulations. The California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS) has instituted strict rules, limiting vehicle length as well as total truck weight. For especially wide loads, trucking companies need to obtain a specialized permit from the state of California.
- Driver Training Standards
Driving a commercial truck is not easy, and it is a job that must be done carefully by a qualified, attentive professional. Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring that they are only putting safe drivers behind the wheel of their vehicles. Truckers need to be properly licensed, and they must have a safe driving history. When big companies use low hiring standards and cut back on training to save money, everyone’s safety is put at risk.
- Truck Driver Schedule Limits
To operate a vehicle safely, a truck driver needs to be fully rested. Unfortunately, big trucking companies sometimes try to make truckers work extremely aggressive schedules in order to keep them on the road and to make higher profits for the company. Trucking businesses cannot put anything, including profits, before public safety. California has adopted rules from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which restrict how much time truck drivers can work in a week. Under the current regulations, truck drivers must:
- Take a 30 minute break from driving, once every eight hours;
- Drive no more than 70 hours per week; and
- Have at least 34 hours of continuous time off from driving at least once per week.
- California Commercial Truck Route Regulations
California has strict rules that regulate which routes semi-truck can take when making commercial deliveries. These regulations exist both to ensure that traffic flows as smoothly as possible, and to protect the health and safety of the state’s residents. When trucks cause traffic jams, it can make our state’s roads far more dangerous. Trucking companies must always follow the routes set forth by CALTRANS.
- Vehicle Inspection Requirements
Finally, commercial truck companies must ensure that all vehicles in their fleet are always in safe, working condition. Companies must conduct rigorous inspections periodically. Unfortunately, far too many truck owners and operators fail to take these inspections seriously, negligently putting unsafe vehicles out on our roadways.
How Trucking Companies Contribute To Accidents and Injuries
In some cases, it is the policies and practices of the trucking company itself that may increase the likelihood of truck accidents and injuries, putting their drivers and other motorists at risk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a three-year study of trucking accidents and their causes, and they found that the following actions on the part of trucking companies played a part in a significant number of crashes and collisions:
- Improper training of new truck drivers, both in proper loading and safe driving practices;
- Poor maintenance practices in terms of repairing or replacing old or worn truck parts, such as tires and brakes;
- Using older, outdated trucks in their fleets, leading to an increase of potentially dangerous breakdowns;
- Pushing their drivers to make tighter schedules and not allowing time for breaks, leading to an increase in speeding, drug use, distraction, and fatigue among truck drivers;
- Encouraging excessive, overweight loads and improper loading of shipments and supplies.
Depending on the situation, the trucking company or the leasing agent for the truck may be held liable for injuries along with the driver when truck accidents occur. Others who may be responsible for injuries either through an insurance claim or through a personal injury lawsuit include the truck manufacturer and parts suppliers, if their products fail to perform according to industry standards.
Trucking Companies Can Be Held Liable for Negligence
If a truck driver or trucking company has violated any applicable state or federal safety law, or if they took another negligent action, and you were injured as a result of that negligence, you can and should hold them legally liable for the full extent of your accident damages. To do so, you should work with an experienced Los Angeles truck accident attorney. Your attorney will be able to investigate your case and help you bring a legal claim under California’s negligence statute so that you can recover for the full value of your damages.
Contact Our Los Angeles Truck Accident Lawyers Today
At Fisher & Talwar, our California semi-truck accident lawyers have helped many injured victims recover full and fair compensation for their losses. If you were injured in an accident with a negligent truck, please call us today at (213) 805-7706 to schedule a free review of your case. From our office in Downtown Los Angeles, we represent truck accident victims throughout Southern California, including in Orange County and Ventura County.